Home / Nuk-ya-lar



This is interesting; I got the impression on Thursday night that Palin had intentionally mispronounced nuclear, presumably as some sort of anti-elitist message to the base. Before the first time she said the word, she seemed to pause, as if for effect. Did anyone else get that impression?

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  • I coulda sworn she pronounced it correctly the first time, only to “correct” herself by pronouncing it Bush-style thereafter.

  • Vacation time!

  • This is interesting — Nunberg not only calls it out as a mispronunciation, but gives a couple of different theories of its origin.

  • ODB

    I totally suspected the same.

  • roostra

    I had the same reaction when I saw the debates.

  • IIRC, the text of her RNC speech had nuclear spelled out phonetically as “new-clear.” that would suggest that she typically says “nucular.”

  • lemuel pitkin

    OT, but what’s up with no post on the Somali pirates? This story is made for you, Rob!

  • travy

    nukular was one of my drink words so i can’t remember

  • JSG

    Just another example of Repuke’s phony “folksy” talk. EXACTLY like GWB’s phony cowboy act.

  • jon

    After the third time, I got the feeling she really meant it. Maybe it’s like Bush I pronouncing ‘Saddam’ as ‘Sa-damn’.
    Also: she pronounced Ahmadinejad with an initial ‘Ach’ rather than the ‘Ahh’ I had thought was correct. And she adjusted the name to “Ach-maad-ee-jad’. But Biden followed her pronunciation as well. How ’bout linguists?

  • A kind individual on this thread pointed to a video of Ahmedinejad saying his own name.

  • Barry Freed

    no “Ach” or “Akh” sound in the name Ahmad… in spoken Persian. Though that “h” is pronounced which might sound unusual to your ears as if it were following English phonology it would get elided.

  • Barry Freed

    I hope that was clear. I’m over-tired and a bit stressed out.

  • That’s pretty funny, because guess what the standard pronunciation of “nuclear” is in the city she’s trying to sound like she’s grown up far from?
    Yep – they pronounce it nucular around DC.
    On Bush’ pronunciation, no, it’s NOT the standard pronunciation in Texas…
    OTOH, to be fair, Obama’s and Biden’s accents have gotten oddly heavier, too, on the campaign.

  • I always have trouble with this word myself, which leads to a little pause before I say it while I try to remember which is the right pronunciation. So I don’t think it’s a deliberate pander.

  • From Righteous Bubba’s link, Ahmadinejad says, “And by the way, I support peace and quiet.”
    He and McCain should be able to come together to sign the historic You Kids Get Offa My Lawn Treaty.

  • Yeah, I thought it was forced.
    I heard a radio piece some time back where a linguist (or someone in a related field) pointed out that it is, for many people, difficult to pronounce. The combination of sounds in the correct pronunciation is odd, and doesn’t appear very often in the language.
    Biden, on the other hand, went out of his way to pronounce it correctly.

  • paul

    Yes. I was surprised when I heard her mispronounce it. I recall that she had it right in a previous clip I heard not long ago (of course). She pronounced it like real normal people do and not someone who is in need of a remedial english class.

  • EJ

    I saw the pause but it seemed more to me like “Aw, shit, how did they tell me you’re supposed to say it?”
    Wasn’t Eisenhower infamous for saying “nucular?”

  • Barry Freed

    see Matt Weiner’s link @ 12:42 above:
    nuclear like “likelier” not so unusual afterall.

  • Scratchie

    That didn’t occur to me during this debate, but I definitely thought that in 2004 when Bush said “internets”. It was like a challenge to anyone who was willing to correct him, that they’d just be ridiculed as a pencil-neck geek.

  • W. Kiernan

    In fact, G. W. Bush used to pronounce it “nuclear” back in the 1980s. It’s more of his phony “Ah’m a country boy from Tex Ass just lak you’all!” b.s.

  • M.O.

    I think it’s a shibboleth.

  • bloo

    yes, to me it was obvious, repeated, stressed. apparently i read more into than others… i think it’s code for “folksy/country like me”, on a more secret level, “a bush fan and loyalist like me” and finally on a more insidious level, it’s the replacement of the word nuclear, which invokes a serious, sobering set of issues, with a happy cartoon word from a cartoon world where you needn’t worry your good ol’ guy/gal head (little pat) about such heavy stuff.

  • Bill Arnold

    I’ve been believing it was originally homage to Eisenhower, perhaps first institutionalized in the nuclear-military-industrial complex.
    It seems more common on the American right, but I don’t know of any numerical evidence for this. A belief that “nucular” is part of the Republican analogue of Ebonics alongside “Democrat party”, etc, is tempting but probably not fair.
    I counted (at least) one correct “nuclear” from Palin in the debate, and (at least) 3 “nuculars”.

  • Jacob Davies

    I think you all are letting your (uncomfortably classist, for me) dislike of the pronunciation drive you to nutty paranoia. There is hard evidence from the RNC speech that she needs coaching to pronounce it “new-clear”. I haven’t seen any reports of anyone going to Wasilla and asking people how they say it, but it seems entirely plausible that that would be the common pronunciation in the group of people she grew up with.
    She has plenty of other blatant, pandering affectations you could pick on. “Nucular”, though, is a big loser in that regard.
    It’s only one step further to just saying outright that people who use regional accents/pronunciations are stupider than you. It is, in fact, wrong, illiberal, elitist, classist and fucking lame to say that saying “nucular” means you are stupid or ignorant.
    (I shouldn’t really need to say this, but no doubt if I don’t I’ll be accused of being a Republican troll: Sarah Palin is obviously a complete idiot, and numerous aspects of her speech patterns -her malapropisms, the reversed clauses in sentences, the rambling, random connection of one clause to another – indicate a terrifying lack of coherence to her thinking. The use of “nucular” just isn’t one of those markers.)

  • rea

    I think you all are letting your (uncomfortably classist, for me) dislike of the pronunciation drive you to nutty paranoia.
    Falsum in uno, falsum in omnibus; she lies about everything else, so it’s a fair inference that she’s lying in her pronouciation as well.

  • So this is an interesting-sounding podcast (I’m only about a third of the way through) about her accent.

  • bloo

    when palin says nukular, it isn’t stupid, it’s pandering to the stupid. saying you read all the papers and journals when you don’t read them, to katie couric in a taped interview, that’s stupid. believing the lie that it only appears that way because the interview was somehow edited or “filtered”, that’s stupid.
    and saying that nukular is just a colloquialism, here, well… c’mon now.

  • Q
  • Q

    Quite an act…

  • littlepitcher

    Teleprompters reputedly gave her “new-clear”. This may be a solidarity issue with Rethugs. I was told firmly by my GOP bossman that Bush Lite wouldn’t mispronounce a word with all those advisors, and therefore I (and all those dictionaries) are wrong. It may also be a solidarity issue with all the illegal immigrants that the Arizona gang imported, who can’t speak English very well either…
    One side butchers the language, while the other side rattles on.
    The major parties remind me of the true story of a medical laboratory personnel manager who was ordered to practice affirmative action. In retaliation, he hired a dyslexic African-American woman to run the lab’s STD tests.
    Vote “None of the Above” on a write-in ballot and let both parties know that America deserves better, and in all colors and sexes.

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